029: Alex Smale – Emotion Over Promotion – TribeMix.com

Alex Smale
Alex is a social media and technology consultant, specializing in strategy, development and content marketing.

He is the managing director at TribeMix.com: a creative social media and content marketing agency; developing and delivering cutting edge marketing strategies for a wide range of clients across multiple sectors.

At the time of this podcast Alex was #19 in the
Top 500 Social Media Agencies in the UK today.

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Have a listen to my chat with Alex Smale.

See highlights and links from of our chat below…
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Riches to Rags
Well there’s definitely been some bumps and bruises. My life has been very diverse and sometimes quite strange. And when we very young, my family was quite wealthy and my dad ran a big car company in London that used to repair the cars of the rich and the famous. But then unfortunately he went bankrupt, the business was closed down and we went from being quite well off to actually being homeless living in a squat in Plymouth and in Devon.

We went very much from riches to rags. But you know we built ourselves back up and yeah so eventually my first career was in computer game development.

I was a 3-D artist developing computer games for Playstations and Sega Saturns and Xboxes and things like that. And I did that for about 10 years working with Sega, Sony, Codemasters, BMG, a variety of companies all around the UK and also spent a little while living in France working for a French company over there. Yeah so that was really where my career started in technology. I learned a lot about marketing and PR in that time as well.

Bumps and Bruises
But with all good things, you eventually become in need of looking to do something different, something new. So I always wanted to be a pub manager so I moved back to the UK to run a big pub, which is definitely a bit career change—very different. And definitely a lot of bumps and bruises then I can tell you.

But then I spent about five years doing that before eventually starting my own photography business. I’ve been a photographer for a long time as a hobby and I decided that that was the right time for me to actually begin a company doing it. And that was when

Early Adopter of Social Media
I began my journey with social media marketing. So that was back in 2007 and without any real marketing budget, social media straight away provided a great opportunity for me to market my company. I already had content as a photographer so as an image-based platform, Facebook was a great way to start.

I’ve been doing social media marketing ever since then. And during that time I’ve worked quite a lot in the leisure industry working at zoos and attractions, which has been a really kind of fun journey. Had some great fun with lots of different places and you know doing some cool things with animals and things.

Taking the Chair
I was chairman of the marketing committee for Biaza, which is the national zoo organization and which was quite a prestigious role. I was very flattered to be able to be chosen for that.

TribeMix.com is Born
I’ve just started my own agency, TribeMix, I kind of got to the point where a lot of people were asking me with help for their social media and I realized that now might be the right time to go it alone and start my own agency

With TribeMix we’ve not been going long and our first clients are in the leisure industry. We’re doing some really exciting stuff with them. It’s an industry I know very well having worked in the zoo industry for a long time. So it’s great for us because we immediately understand their business and we immediately understand their customers as well.

I know for a fact that it’s really good fun and that’s kind of a guiding line for TribeMix, and this comes from my girlfriend, Jo, you know she’s very strict with me. If it’s not a client we’re going to enjoy working with and have fun and it’s going to make our lives fun then I’m just not allowed to work with them.

It’s got to be interesting and we’ve got to have the right fit. And that makes the whole process that much better because when you’re really enthusiastic about a brand, that really shines through and companies really appreciate that and you know it makes for a great working relationship.

Emotion Rather Than Promotion
The emotion not promotion thing comes because I absolutely hate adverts and advertising and I just think it’s the scourge of society. I think it’s so meaningless. I know why it’s there, I know that company’s need to get themselves out there and they have to kind of put themselves in front of people’s eyes. But I think it’s just such a bad way of doing that.

I think there’s a much better way by actually being valuable and interesting to your customers and them coming to you. I mean this is a classic thought, the in-bound marketing thing, but done to almost like the next level. Almost to a point forgetting about your own brand and just entertaining and offering value to people and then people will really come and bond with your company.

Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is very kind of early in its development even though it’s been around for many years. I remember first learning about it on a science TV show here in the UK called Tomorrow’s World back in the 80s. And it’s just really not going anywhere—I think it’s just been waiting for the technology to catch up and now it really is starting to catch up.

There’s kind of three I guess main areas of augmented reality. You’ve got marker-based and GPS-based and within the marker based you’ve got 2-D and 3-D augmented realities.

GPS-based stuff there’s been an app around called “About Me” for quite a few years now where you basically look around your phone and you can see restaurants nearby and that kind of stuff like basically GPS map data. And then you’ve got marker-based augmented reality where you have a fixed image in space, which might be a magazine cover or could be a sign post or anything like that, and then you can scan that marker with an app like “Augment” for example or “Blippar” and that image then becomes the reference point in 3-D space.

If you go onto my blog on AlexSmale.com, there’s a blog post about the dinosaur trail that we did at Paradise Wildlife Park in the UK. And all the instructions there—you can download the “Augment” app and there’s a couple of markers you can scan. The Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton’s quite a good example and that will just give you a flavor for what it’s about. Those models aren’t animated but you can animate them as well. And once you’ve got the “Augment” app there’s a load of library models on there that you can try, which are really good so yeah give it a go.

Starting the Day Learning
I think getting up early in the morning is a great way to start the day. I start the day by learning and like everyone else, it takes a little while for my brain to start going so I quite often start the day with learning. So I quite often spent the first hour of the day reading.

There’s so much to learn in this industry, it’s in its infancy so I’m always mindful that my knowledge is miniscule compared to what it could be so yeah learning is a big part of that for me. And yeah I think it’s about having a strong belief that you’re going to make a big difference to the clients you work with.

The thing that really motivates me and keeps me going everyday is hearing back from my clients—just even the little things, the little tips that I’ve given them that’s made such a huge difference to their leads and how much reach they’ve got with their posts and what differences made to their business and how they can’t wait to do more and more of it.

Networking & Learning

Well there’s so many. I think now rather than any one blog or one person, these days we’ve things like Google+ communities, Twitter lists, and you know groups. And there’s just so many different areas around now where you can tailor the kind of content you get rather than coming from particular sources.

On the Bookshelf:

Groundswell, Expanded and Revised Edition:
Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Becoming THE Expert:
Enhancing Your Business Reputation through Thought Leadership Marketing
by John W. Hayes

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff:

Simple Ways To Keep The Little Things From Taking Over Your Life
by Richard Carlson

Utility
by Jay Baer

Epic Content Marketing
by Joe Pulizzi

Contact Alex

Twitter = @Alex_Smale
Biz = TribeMix.com
Personal = AlexSmale.com

Have a listen to my chat with Alex Smale.

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Alex Smale
Tribemix.com

Transcript

James: All right welcome back my friends to yet another edition of the Big Value, Big Business podcast. I am your host James Lynch. I am really big, big, big, big-time super excited about my very special guest today. His name is Mr. Alex Smale. Alex comes to us from TribeMix.com, he’s a social media and technology consultant. He specializes in strategy development and content marketing. He is also the managing director over at TribeMix.com, which is a creative social media and content marketing agency developing and delivering strategies for a wide range of clients across multiple sectors. It’s my pleasure to welcome Alex to the Big Value, Big Business podcast today.
Hello Alex over in Great Britain, how are you today sir?

Alex: Hello James! I’m good thank you, thank you very much for having me on.

James: Awesome, awesome pleasure is all mine sir. You know I want to thank you for coming on and I’m really looking forward to having you share some of your in-depth knowledge and expertise in the area of quality communication in social media and content marketing. Does that sound like a plan?

Alex: That sounds like a great plan as long as you enjoy what I say and I hopefully the listeners will get something out of it.

James: I certainly hope so and know they will. Hey listen I think congratulations are in order, I was browsing about the Twitter-sphere and I see you have entered into position number 19 of the top 500 social media agencies in the UK. Congratulations.

Alex: Thanks very much. Yeah it’s really great to see that ascent that high in the chart. It’s certainly very competitive so out of 500 to be #19 on our entry to the chart is really encouraging so yeah thank you.

James: That’s awesome, that’s awesome again congrats it’s good to see. Yeah so listen I’d like to start out with most of my guests—just start out with a little bit of history. Where you came from you know, what kind of led you to where you are today to starting your agency and maybe any little bumps and bruises and challenges that you had along the way. So tell us what brought you to this point in time, Alex.

Alex: Well there’s definitely been some bumps and bruises. My life has been very diverse and sometimes quite strange. And when we very young, my family was quite wealthy and my dad ran a big car company in London that used to repair the cars of the rich and the famous. But then unfortunately he went bankrupt, the business was closed down and we went from being quite well off to actually being homeless living in a squat in Plymouth and in Devon. So yeah we went very much from riches to rags. But you know we built ourselves back up and yeah so eventually my first career was in computer game development. So I was a 3-D artist developing computer games for Playstations and Sega Saturns and Xboxes and things like that. And I did that for about 10 years working with Sega, Sony, Codemasters, BMG, a variety of companies all around the UK and also spent a little while living in France working for a French company over there. Yeah so that was really where my career started in technology. I learned a lot about marketing and PR in that time as well.

But with all good things, you eventually become in need of looking to do something different, something new. So I always wanted to be a pub manager so I moved back to the UK to run a big pub, which is definitely a bit career change—very different. And definitely a lot of bumps and bruises then I can tell you. But then yeah I spent about five years doing that before eventually starting my own photography business. I’ve been a photographer for a long time as a hobby and I decided that that was the right time for me to actually begin a company doing it. And that was when I began my journey with social media marketing. So that was back in 2007 and without any real marketing budget, social media straight away provided a great opportunity for me to market my company. I already had content as a photographer so as an image-based platform, Facebook was a great way to start.

So yeah I’ve been doing social media marketing ever since then. And during that time I’ve worked quite a lot in the leisure industry working at zoos and attractions, which has been a really kind of fun journey. Had some great fun with lots of different places and you know doing some cool things with animals and things. And also yeah I was the chairman of the marketing committee for Biaza, which is the national zoo organization and which was quite a prestigious role. I was very flattered to be able to be chosen for that. And yeah and now I’ve just started my own agency, TribeMix, I kind of got to the point where a lot of people were asking me with help for their social media and I realized that now might be the right time to go it alone and start my own agency. So yeah it’s going great so far. So that’s a bit of background, hope that was interesting.

James: Absolutely and quite colorful and your resume kind of looks a little bit like mine in the pub industry and there and around. And also this is—I don’t know if it’s funny but it’s kind of a coincidence—quite a few people that I’ve talked to, business owners, entrepreneurs, social media folk, they have had their start or still are involved in photography. It seems to be a natural segue once you start promoting yourself in the photography world—and you were doing it in 2007—the things you learn and folks automatically seem to gravitate towards you to have you help them with their efforts. That’s pretty cool.

Alex: Yeah photography’s been by far the most useful tool throughout my working life. It has so many useful applications everywhere and anywhere especially obviously with social media. It means that as an agency being able to go and create photographic content for a company without having to bring in external resources and rely on other people to kind of understand what we’re trying to achieve. Yeah and it’s you know, creative so I think having creative people in this industry is obviously going to come from sources such as photography or artists or writers and things like that. So yeah that works. I can see why that would be the case.

James: Yeah it’s just ironic. I talked to Oli Gardner, he’s from Unbounce.com, and he photographs large wildlife and just a couple other people, Own Your Hill, Bethany Gillberg—actually a young lady from South Africa too, Mimika Cooney. All photographers! You’re in good company my friend.

Alex: Yeah I’ll have to get their contacts and stuff.

James: Yeah sure absolutely! Absolutely.

Alex: Reach out to them.

James: Yeah, yeah. So tell me about your present day—your agency—really the first thing that spoke to me when I first ran into you was your message with emotion rather than promotion. And I love that it speaks right to the Big Value, Big Business concept. You know what I’m trying to bring out there is quality in our communication in the marketplace. So tell me about maybe a daily in the life of your agency with clients and how you show them how to communicate to humans rather than just pushing the message out there.

Alex: Sure, I mean the emotion not promotion thing comes because I absolutely hate adverts and advertising and I just think it’s the scourge of society. I think it’s so meaningless. I know why it’s there, I know that company’s need to get themselves out there and they have to kind of put themselves in front of people’s eyes. But I think it’s just such a bad way of doing that. I think there’s a much better way by actually being valuable and interesting to your customers and them coming to you. I mean this is a classic thought, the in-bound marketing thing, but done to almost like the next level. Almost to a point forgetting about your own brand and just entertaining and offering value to people and then people will really come and bond with your company.

There’s been some great examples of it recently. GoPro for example, they don’t really market per se they just put out great content and interesting content that their own people have created. And look at them, their IPO went really well and a week later they were up 60%. This stuff really does work because we’re so bombarded with content these days. Advertising is just another almost bad form of content when there’s much more interesting and entertaining content out there. That’s the sort of stuff we can engage with. So yeah I think as long as companies are kind of putting their customers first and giving them value then I think will succeed far beyond those companies that are still just advertising to their client base.

So yeah with TribeMix we’ve not been going long and our first clients are in the leisure industry. We’re doing some really exciting stuff with them. It’s an industry I know very well having worked in the zoo industry for a long time. So it’s great for us because we immediately understand their business and we immediately understand their customers as well. So I know for a fact that it’s really good fun and that’s kind of a guiding line for TribeMix, and this comes from my girlfriend, Jo, you know she’s very strict with me. If it’s not a client we’re going to enjoy working with and have fun and it’s going to make our lives fun then I’m just not allowed to work with them. It’s got to be interesting and we’ve got to have the right fit. And that makes the whole process that much better because when you’re really enthusiastic about a brand, that really shines through and companies really appreciate that and you know it makes for a great working relationship.

So yeah at the moment we’ve been pretty busy straight away. I haven’t even had a chance to fully finish our own website or anything like that cause we’ve been straight into helping clients which is great. And yeah it’s just been an interesting journey and people are coming to us from all different sectors and asking us to help them with their social media and their content marketing and also augmented reality which is probably the most exciting part of all I think.

James: Tell us a little bit about the offline kind of augmented reality and how you can wrap that up into—I saw some of these adverts for the images of dinosaurs and how you kind of use augmented reality to make some very interesting images and just tell us a little bit more about that and how it applies. You know where you learned about it and how you use it and the future of using that in advertising and marketing.

Alex: So augmented reality is very kind of early in its development even though it’s been around for many years. I remember first learning about it on a science TV show here in the UK called Tomorrow’s World back in the 80s. And it’s just really not going anywhere—I think it’s just been waiting for the technology to catch up and now it really is starting to catch up. Everyone’s got a powerful enough device in their hands and the next generation of those wearable devices—well not Google Glass Mach I but potentially Google Glass Mach II and beyond will mean that augmented reality will go into an explosion in everyone’s lives. And all of a sudden it’ll be everywhere but at the moment it’s not really anywhere. So yeah it’s an exciting time and it fits perfectly with what we do because of our—you know my personal heritage with computer game development, 3-D graphics, and those kinds of things. And so it’s one of those areas where because of that I’ve always had my eye on waiting for the time when that kind of industry was starting to mature. And we’re quite early in it still but really in the next two or three years it’s going to be a big part of everyone’s lives.

So we’re starting early with that and we’re starting to put augmented reality into leisure attractions as part of the visual experience. Which is proving successful, people are finding it interesting and you know having a lot of fun with it. And we’re constantly looking at new ways of developing that. I can’t quite tell you what areas and what things we’re doing with it at the moment because our clients are quite keen to keep it a secret because it’ll ruin the surprise which is tricky but—

James: Okay.. for our listeners, just explain—say I have a lot of entrepreneurs, more consultant creators, advertisers, small business folk, how would they use augmented reality to maybe enhance their advertisement? Like what platform are they using? Would it be a social media platform? Is it strictly applicable to images? How do you think that would tie in without violating any non-disclosure agreement you have? How could that apply—how could we apply to modern day marketing?

Alex: Oh no this area’s fine I mean the technologies and how it works and those kinds of things I can talk about quite a bit. So there’s kind of three I guess main areas of augmented reality. You’ve got marker-based and GPS-based and within the marker based you’ve got 2-D and 3-D augmented realities.

So GPS-based stuff there’s been an app around called “About Me” for quite a few years now where you basically look around your phone and you can see restaurants nearby and that kind of stuff like basically GPS map data. And then you’ve got marker-based augmented reality where you have a fixed image in space, which might be a magazine cover or could be a sign post or anything like that, and then you can scan that marker with an app like “Augment” for example or “Blippar” and that image then becomes the reference point in 3-D space.

So it would be the app knows the angle of that image and therefore as you move around the image, it can calculate the different angle and so it’ll give the illusion that an image is actually there fixed in space that isn’t actually there. And then you’re just limited by your imagination so you can either have 2-D videos or images that float in 3-D space. We’re seeing a lot of that in supermarkets and things like that where people can hold up a DVD case and watch a trailer of a movie, that kind of stuff. Or with the 3-D content, you can animate it, you can make it fun, scary, interactive to a point at least. You can stand next to it, have your photo taken with it, share it onto social media channels. It’s really just limited by your imagination beyond there but it’s really exciting and you can basically overlay a layer of entertainment in a space with limited space and very small budget instead of having to build something big in the real world.

James: Neat, neat. So if we were to—do you have a specific place we could go to get a start (to learn about) what is augmented reality, would that bring us to where we need to be?

Alex: Sure I mean if you go onto my blog on AlexSmale.com, there’s a blog post about the dinosaur trail that we did at Paradise Wildlife Park in the UK. And all the instructions there—you can download the “Augment” app and there’s a couple of markers you can scan. The Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton’s quite a good example and that will just give you a flavor for what it’s about. Those models aren’t animated but you can animate them as well. And once you’ve got the “Augment” app there’s a load of library models on there that you can try, which are really good so yeah give it a go.

James: Yeah and I’ll put this information in the show notes after we wrap it, it’ll show up with the podcast and that will be at BigValueBigBusiness.com/episode29. For anyone that’s listening and wants to check that out, it’s really cool. We could do a whole episode. We could talk an hour or so on augmented reality, that’s awesome. But I wanted to go back to something you said and I love that and tell your girlfriend she’s right on. I’m a big proponent of you’ve got to like who you’re working with man. You know there’s something to be said, if you can get to a point where you can pick your clients and you like each other and it’s so much easier to work with and I also see—you become for the leisure industry and for the zoology industry, you become almost an evangelist for their brand, for their websites, for their properties. You know and a brand ambassador—you’re still an agency or you’re still a consultant for them but you become a part of their family and I think that’s so intricate. And that kind of ties to the emotion versus promotion because you have emotions vested in your presentation of the product.

Alex: Absolutely and especially in the leisure industry. They’re very passionate people in zoos—I mean these industries especially the zoo industry, it’s not an area to get rich at all. These guys are doing it purely for the love of doing it. And if you’re not in tune with that passion then you’re never going to resonate with that audience so yeah. It’s absolutely imperative for me that I enjoy everyday that we work you know? Life is too short not to I think.

James: That’s awesome and kudos to you for carving that niche out for yourself and doing what you love and being passionate about it. That’s awesome. So on that note of a personal note—not to get too personal—but I’d like to delve into folks like yourself, it takes a lot of be an entrepreneur and agency owner to start up. It takes a lot of discipline, a lot of internal knowledge and you really have to have your stuff together. Tell me about maybe any particular mindset, rituals, productivity, accountability, sounds like your girlfriend is a partner in the agency so there could be accountability there where you guys kind of play off each other. But as far as growing the business and keeping it moving forward, accountability, productivity, how do you keep all that together?

Alex: Well I think getting up early in the morning is a great way to start the day. I start the day by learning and like everyone else, it takes a little while for my brain to start going so I quite often start the day with learning. So I quite often spent the first hour of the day reading. There’s so much to learn in this industry, it’s in its infancy so I’m always mindful that my knowledge is miniscule compared to what it could be so yeah learning is a big part of that for me. And yeah I think it’s about having a strong belief that you’re going to make a big difference to the clients you work with. The thing that really motivates me and keeps me going everyday is hearing back from my clients—just even the little things, the little tips that I’ve given them that’s made such a huge difference to their leads and how much reach they’ve got with their posts and what differences made to their business and how they can’t wait to do more and more of it.

Sometimes it’s more fun rather than providing the whole service for a client but actually just perhaps having a one-day session with them and just going through some things they can try themselves and watching them go through a similar journey to me. They’re learning and developing themselves and going on to do it on their own. I think that’s really exciting. So yeah that’s the real kind of motivation for me.

James: Feeding off the positive feedback you get from showing folks how to get results.

Alex: Absolutely yeah.

James: Love that, love that. That’s fantastic. Yeah I totally agree. How about a business resource—a lot of folks I speak to tend to gravitate towards a mentor or two or belong to a mastermind. You sound like you kind of do your own research in the morning. I mean experts are expert students because we’re always learning. But do you have a mastermind or any particular blog that you look at regularly that you kind of rely on to keep you up to date to keep you on your toes?

Alex: Well there’s so many. I think now rather than any one blog or one person, these days we’ve things like Google+ communities, Twitter lists, and you know groups. And there’s just so many different areas around now where you can tailor the kind of content you get rather than coming from particular sources. You know that’s kind of where I feed off and I just have quite a few of those and that actually forms a big part of my day is actually going through a lot of that stuff, curating the best stuff, putting that back out for my own following thereby creating a funnel of my own for people to come and check out the really good content. And also books as well, there’s some fantastic books, which really still go to much greater depth than any articles or videos or anything like that. So particular ones for me, Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, Utility by Jay Baer, Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi.

James: I love Joe! I’ve had Joe, he’s one of my first guests he’s a great guy.

Alex: Yeah I saw that on your website. So it’s real honor to kind of share the stage with Joe there.

James: Yeah he’s a great guy. Godfather of content marketing. Yeah I have all of those books my friend! That’s awesome. Tell me more, tell me more.

Alex: Okay so there’s another really good one, which is written by a guy called John Hayes, written here in the UK, Becoming THE Expert. And this book I actually buy for quite a few people, I just bought it for my dad this week. And it’s basically all about getting people to start blogging, why they should and just about becoming a thought leader in your field and how important that is to do. So yeah Becoming THE Expert by John Hayes, that’s an excellent one. And another one, this is my favorite book of all time and it’s not a particularly social media book or anything like that at all. But again a book—I must have bought this book 40 times for various people I’ve met—and it’s called, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. And it’s just one of those books that everyone should read because it totally keeps your life in perspective and stops you literally worrying about the small stuff. And it’s definitely helped me to enjoy my life and become much more relaxed about everything I do and yeah I think I’ve become more successful because of it.

James: Awesome. Great books, all classics. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff I put that—that’s right up there with the Chicken Soup’s and the Seven Habits and Think and Grow Rich that’s definitely one. ?? another I always great minds ?? That’s awesome, awesome, awesome.

So listen as we wrap, just let us know what you have going on, where we can find you, if you have any particular promotions. This is a time for you to tell our listeners what projects you’re working and where we can find you.

Alex: Well we’re working on a range of projects from various clients with their social media, augmented reality, and content marketing. Largely in the leisure industry and also in industries that would really surprise you and you’ll hear about those as they come to fruition. Please forgive my secrecy it’s important to me that we protect our client’s integrity. But yeah so follow us and follow me, Alex_Smale, on Twitter or @TribeMix as well. And check out our website at TribeMix.com and yeah join our tribe. Just be a part of what we do.

James: Appreciate for being so generous with your time and we’ll catch up with you again very soon. Looking forward to some of these really hush, hush projects you’ve piqued our interest so we’re going to have to circle back with you and find out what you’ve got going on.

Alex: Yeah of course, I’d love to.

James: All right Alex, thank you so much and you take care okay?

Alex: No thanks very much James. I really appreciate you having us on, thank you.

James: Thank you, take care. Bye-bye.

Alex: Take care.

James: Bye.

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